SPS-249: An Expert in Her Field: Marketing to a Niche – with Carly Kade
Carly Kade writes in a genre very close to her heart. She’s taken her love of horses and her life as an equestrian and parlayed that into a writing career.
- How writing about a passion automatically lends authenticity to a book
- The importance of educating oneself about intellectual property and its value
- Creating a community of authors in the same small but growing sub-genre
- How a small niche can help, not hinder, marketing
- How to get more written in every busy day
Resources mentioned in this episode:
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
HANDOUT: Carly has created a handout for SPF listeners on the eight secrets to writing faster. You can grab it here.
MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.
SPS-249: An Expert in Her Field: Marketing to a Niche - with Carly Kade
Speaker 1: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show...
Carly Kade: I turn off the internet when I'm writing. I shut down my cell phone. I completely eliminate distractions because when you're multitasking, you get off track, and you never circle back so I give myself at least one hour uninterrupted to get the words on the page. And that's really all you need to move yourself forward.
Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers, no one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?
Join Indie bestseller, Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is The Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello, and welcome. It is The Self-Publishing Show with James Blatch...
Mark Dawson: And Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: You got accused of being cheerful last week. That doesn't happen very often.
Mark Dawson: I know. That was really strange. Someone thinks I'm grumpy generally on the podcast, which is not necessarily true. Sometimes that's true, I suppose.
James Blatch: I try and lift everything. Okay, we have lots to get through before today's excellent interview, really fun interview with Carly. We have to mention a new... not have to mention. We absolutely love to mention a new Patreon supporter, and it is... Oh, my goodness, it is Erica Amy. Erica Amy, I think that's how you say it. I have no address. I imagine Mordor might be where Erica Amy is or Valhalla or somewhere like that, so possibly Oregon. Who knows?
You can also get a shout out like that if you join us via Patreon, patreon.com/selfpublishingshow. It just helps this podcast keep going. And we very much want to keep going.
Right. What else are we going to talk about? I will quickly mention my Facebook Ads account was shut down on Thursday. I got that message that said, "You've violated rules, suspicious security activity. Your Facebook account is suspended." Couldn't run any ads. Everything was stopped. Couldn't even go into the credit card bit to see what was going on.
The reason I mention it is because people often post into to our group, and they are panic-stricken by this event. It is simply one of those things that happens with social media accounts from time to time. And so my experience personally, of people posting is, nothing to do with you. It's an algorithm, at the moment, ahead of the election, a very sensitive algorithm that shuts down accounts first and ask questions later so that things don't go wrong. And then you appeal, and it takes a few days, and then your account comes back up.
Now, actually, funny enough, I had a Facebook rep chasing me for a follow-up call, and I'd ignored him for a few days. And then my account got shut down. I thought, "Yes, I shall talk to you now." So I scheduled him in for Friday morning. Shut down on Thursday. And the first thing he said to me is, "I've just looked into your account, and I know what you're going to say." So he then reached out to support on my behalf. I'd already done it as well. And he said he'd try and get it back by the weekend. It came back on Sunday. So I'm back up and running now.
And an interesting thing happened to me last time this happened is that the account was shut down for three days, two and a half days of the month. It actually made quite a positive difference to my month because you don't immediately stop selling books. It starts to tail off, but it doesn't suddenly cease, but your advertising spend does suddenly cease for three days. And actually, that makes quite a difference to the bottom line at the end of the month.
Obviously, I did mention this to you as maybe even a tactic to deliberately shut ads down for two or three days every now and again, and then carry on going, you get a minimal drop off in momentum. Maybe you don't. There's a balance there. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this, but it was worth exploring. But it certainly put me very positively into some good figures this month. But anyway, I thought I'd mention that.
Mark Dawson: Do you want me to speak?
James Blatch: No. You just stay quietly cheerful.
Mark Dawson: I'll just be quiet. I was going to suggest-
James Blatch: Sorry, did you say something?
Mark Dawson: I was going to suggest normally you see people in the group saying... well, just generally have had a Facebook rep reach out to them. And my view normally is... In fact, my view almost always is they don't know very much. They may not know as much as you do, and they won't know anywhere near as much as you do about selling books. I'm not talking about you, James, specifically, just you, the listener.
But you did that absolutely right. And that is a good reason actually to get in touch with those reps to answer their emails, is that if you have someone that you can email in the situation that the ad goes down or that the account goes down, which is happening an awful lot at the moment, it's not actually a bad idea to do that. Although I take almost all of their... When they start suggesting, "Let's run some brand awareness ads," I'd almost always ignore that advice. It is quite useful to have just someone you could reach out to in the event that you need someone to give you hand to switch your account back on again.
James Blatch: Yeah, I think best use of the Facebook Ads guys that I've... The only two conversations I had with him is, I've had a couple of questions for him about the way I'm doing things, particularly the dynamic creatives at the moments and how the reporting works and how you make decisions. And that if you know what you're doing, I think they're quite good for that. If you sit there and say, "Well, what should I be doing?"
Because, like you say, the person who spoke to you before sells vinyl records, and the person you're speaking to afterwards sells dresses. And we really do need to be talking to people in our Facebook group and yourself and people who are specialists at books, because it's a different world but, yeah. Anyway, I thought I'd mention that. So don't panic is the message about that. It's going to happen to you. And it's frustrating. There's no question about that, but it's not the end of things.
Next thing to mention is the Kindle Storyteller Award. I was invited. It was a Zoom link night, but I unfortunately wasn't able to go. But you went. Did you dress up and then join the Zoom link?
Mark Dawson: No, I didn't.
James Blatch: Well, did you undress?
Mark Dawson: No, I didn't do that either. I just put the kids to bed. It was eight o'clock last night, UK time so I took the phone and opened the link up, and it was really good. It was just a bit weird really.
You had Doug, who is the head of Amazon UK so very, very senior head of not just books, but everything. He does the introduction. I think the event is one of his favourites throughout the year. So he did a quick introduction. He then handed off to Simon Johnson who is the head of the books operation in the UK. And then he in turn handed off to Claudia Winkleman, who is well known in the UK as the co-host of Strictly Come Dancing, so Dancing With the Stars in the States, and other things as well. And she then ran through the books that had been nominated, five books I think it was. I should know that, given I read them all, and then had a quick VT with each of the nominated authors, at least two of which are in the SPF community, which was quite nice.
And then Claudia announced the winner, which was Anna McNuff and her book, Llama Drama, which is really... I mean, I enjoyed the books that I read in the judging this year and particularly Llama Drama, which was a really... It's a nonfiction book, narrative nonfiction, a story of Anna and her friend who cycled through South America. She's a really good writer. Lucy read it as well. She really, really enjoyed it.
It was a lovely moment because then, of course, they didn't know who the winner was so you had a split screen as the announcement was made by Claudia. And so Anna won 20,000 pounds. I think she gets some Amazon video introductions. I think AmazonCrossing, to do translation, and Amazon to assist with promoting that book. And yeah, she was over the moon. She's also just announced that she's pregnant and her boyfriend, or husband, leapt on camera and gave her a big hug as the announcement was made, which was really lovely.
So congratulations to her and to all the other nominees as well, especially those in the community. It was some good strong books this year. And that is one of my favourite things is to be a judge on that panel.
James Blatch: Excellent. And you, too, can enter the Kindle Storyteller Award. I believe you have to have published the book before August. Is that right?
Mark Dawson: Usually it's within the calendar year of the actual award. And all you need to do is just, you change one of your metadata slots to say storyteller, I think, or something along those lines. But they'll announce next year's competition in the next few months I'd have thought.
James Blatch: Excellent, and maybe we'll be in the room next time. We'll see. Well, that's good.
Mark Dawson: If you publish anything, you could enter your own book. I'd recuse myself.
James Blatch: Well, funnily enough, I did want to ask you about writing. So I have had my editorial developmental assessment of my book, which I withheld from publishing back, and it's very thorough and very good, and I followed up with the call and went through everything.
I'm now rewriting it... hooray... again, and one of the things that came out is we thought it was a good idea having talked through the way it works and fixing it a bit. By the way, lots of very lovely positive feedback about the book. And he's not worried about the story, the character development, the themes. He thinks they're all good, and he genuinely enjoys that. That was really brilliant to hear that.
He does think I have too much introspection, too much telling and not showing, and too many words so that's what we're fixing. But it does require a rewrite of every scene and taking chunks of storylines out. So it's quite a lot of work to do, but it's a fairly compartmentalised job to do.
So one of the things we'll do is one of the characters... he thinks, good idea, not to write from his point of view for the first half of the book until he becomes a more significant character. And that's a thematic thing because it keeps him a little bit distant, which is how he is. Which means I'm going to be writing something I haven't done. So at the moment, the book, every scene is POV. It's one person's point of view, so. And I'm quite strict about this because I do understand this from Jenny about head hopping, for instance. So, you can't talk about things that the other person's thinking because that not in their head, or even seeing. If that person can't see something, it makes no sense, except... Maybe I've been a bit too strict on that.
And here's my question. I'm rewriting a scene, which was from a pilot's point of view in the front of this Vulcan. So the opening line of the scene, which I would like to keep is that, "The aircraft swept down out of the clouds and lined up on short final at RAF West Portal." Now I'm writing, and that's his point of view. He's a pilot. He can see everything. He's at the controls. But now I'm writing from a guy who sat in the back and doesn't have a window, because he's an air electronics officer. Can I still use that line as the narrator, as the author? Can I say, "The aircraft swept out of the clouds and lined up on short final. In the back, Millie contemplated what had happened"?
Mark Dawson: No, no, I wouldn't do that. You can do it in another way. I mean, you just got to tell it from his perspective. So what would he know? Perhaps the pilot announces it or-
James Blatch: That's what I was starting to do. Okay.
Mark Dawson: It would be much more effective that way, if you start to jump out of what he... That's the authorial voice becoming a little bit too loud. And others will disagree with me on that. But for me, I think it's much more powerful and effective if you use some other way for that character to tell the reader what is that actually happening. And he must know those things. And also, if it's a sentence that you like, you have to get over that. Because I mean, I chuck thousands and thousands of words I really like in an edit because the characters can't know that.
When I started writing, I was very much influenced by people like Martin Amos and Will Self, who are... Their authorial voices is almost a character within the novel. It's very distinctive and obvious who the writer is. And it's also quite showy and that's fine. They write literary fiction. It's almost expected to have that kind of flare in a novel like that, but from the kind of genre books that I write, it's absolutely not. It doesn't do me any good. It doesn't move the story along. It takes the reader out of the scene. And I don't want my readers necessarily to think, "Oh, that's a beautiful sentence." I want them to be moving on to the next part of the plot. So you'd have to be quite ruthless on that.
James Blatch: Okay. All right. Well, I like to be clear about exactly what I'm doing when I'm writing the scene or rewriting in this case. And so for the other character who we're going keep out of his head, the scene will be from his point of view. I won't be subtle about things, but I won't be ever going into his head or very, very rarely anything about his emotional response. It'll be more of a description of the scene and the discussion. And obviously the speech, but just keeping him distant, which is the whole point of that.
Okay, good. Thank you very much. Well, we do need to do another book club. I think it's in process. I keep asking my colleagues to put it in process. I'd have to check. Tom's on holiday this week, but we'll have that conversation again with Jenny. I'll have a chat through with that. I think it's a really important thing to understand. And in a lot of books I read, it is something that people do get wrong. That head hopping in particular, I think is quite common.
Mark Dawson: It's not necessarily wrong. It's fine to do that. But I think it's a matter of stylistic taste from the author. Most authors will tell you not to do that. Now others will, and you'll see in experimental fiction or literary fiction, it's not that unusual for an innovator to jump from character to character.
Personally, I absolutely hate it. If I'm reading it, it will completely take me out of the book because it just feels lazy. But there's a time and a place for everything. It's just that isn't my kind, I don't enjoy that. But others will. So, there is no dogmatic refusal to use that technique, but I think for the kind of book that you're writing and the kind of books that I write, personally I think as a reader, I would much rather it be closed to this person.
James Blatch: Stick to those rules and make it as readable as possible without having to think. Okay. Yeah. Good. All right. Thank you, guru, for that conversation. I've enjoyed it.
Mark Dawson: Invoice is in the post.
James Blatch: Jedi master. Still your Padawan. Okay.
Mark Dawson: Always.
James Blatch: Right, I think we have moved on to our interview. I think Lucy Dawson might enjoy this interview. She enjoys her horse riding. And this is, really it's about when you have a passion, when you have a niche, you and I becoming a little bit obsessed with golf. I'm definitely obsessed with golf.
It's enjoying yourself by using that and writing around it. So, horse riding there's been some missing famous horse rider authors, Jilly Cooper in the UK. Dick Francis was a jockey, wasn't he? And then became a very, very excelling author and wrote about that world. And this is about that. There's horses in this particular. But of course, it could be golf. It could be cricket.
I remember Maria Lewis, we mentioned from time to time on this podcast. Her first three romance books were ice hockey romance. I mean, obviously something she was into. And so it's about crafting that and how you use it. And in this case, it's worked fantastically well for her because it's a very, very well supported niche and you've got a lot of loyalty. And that's what happens when you get into those niches. So, here is Carly Kade.
Carly, welcome to the Self Publishing Show. This is a fantastic imagery of horses behind you. If you're watching on YouTube, Carly has this amazing silhouetted painting behind her of horses. You're wearing a horse top.
Carly Kade: I am.
James Blatch: I can see books on the side. This is a horse themed interview. Lucy Dawson's going to be in her element, Mark's wife. She rides. And I'm going to say right from the beginning, you don't necessarily have to be obsessed with horses to enjoy this or learn from this because we're going to be talking about using a niche interest. And how we can use or become an author as a result of that, use that as our author career.
Carly, you better talk to us a little bit about your background. And, yeah, how you got to the point of where you are today.
Carly Kade: Well, first of all, thank you for having me on the show, James. I am a huge fan of the show and I'm an avid listener. So, it is a real honour to be here today. My name is Carly Kade and I write equestrian fiction. And I have a trilogy of equestrian romance novels. The first is In The Reins. The second is Cowboy Away and the third is Show Pen Promise. And I am a proud independent author. And I am so happy to be with you today.
James Blatch: Fantastic. I've got to say right from the beginning for British people listening. Do you know who Dick Francis is?
Carly Kade: I do.
James Blatch: Okay.
Carly Kade: Very famous horse racing author. Yes.
James Blatch: In my youth, Dick Francis novels were around my house all the time. He's somebody who's just penetrated the mass market. And I think I've got this right. I think he was a jockey or an owner who was I think a jockey maybe. And then turned into a novel writer and, yeah, became ubiquitous in the UK.
Everyone in the UK has heard of Dick Francis and Jilly Cooper. My wife reads a lot of Jilly Cooper. She has a lot of horse themed polo and stuff and inner stuff.
Your background, I'm assuming before novel writing, probably going back some way, has been an interest in writing.
Carly Kade: Oh, absolutely. I have loved creative writing ever since I was a little cowgirl. And I've loved horses and they just really married well together. So, the usual carrying around a journal, always writing short stories, taking advanced English classes in school. But I never really set out on this journey of being an author until my stories came to me in a lightning bolt fashion.
James Blatch: Oh really? We'll explore that in a moment. So I guess, what we're talking about here is writing what you want to read. Though often, people say, "Write what you love," et cetera. And this is writing what you would like to read. And that's a perfect... I'm doing the same. I'm writing about Cold War jets, which is my thing. Very similar indeed.
In fact, this is really the theme of the interview. Is what you love your passion? And how that can work for you in terms of novel writing.
How did the novel writing to the point of being a published author, how did that come about?
Carly Kade: I always thought myself a little bit more of a poet. So I would carry around a journal when I was spending time out with the horses or at the farm. And I would capture thoughts about scenery or how I was feeling and how connected I was feeling with my horses.
And then, one day the lead character, a horse trainer, McKennon Kelly, showed up in the form of a poem for me. So I wrote this poem down and I was like, "Oh, that's interesting." And then about an hour later, I wrote the entire ending of In the Reins. And I was like, "Well, I have this poem, which ended up becoming the intro to the first book." And then I had the complete ending and I was like, "Let's explore this. Let's see where this can possibly take me." Because as you said, this is writing about what I love and what I'd like to read about.
There are a lot of horse lovers out there. There are a lot of horse books. But the thing is, a lot of them are for younger readers, young adults. And then you have, on the flip side of that, like the Dick Francises, who write a lot about horse racing. So, there's a lot of that, but there aren't a lot of equestrian fiction books for adults out there.
I love to read, I love reading books. But there weren't any stories that really talked about my lifestyle or my kind of discipline. And there are a lot of people that perform and ride the way I do at the breed circuits. There's a lot of jumping, there's a lot of dressage, a lot of Olympic themed. But there wasn't anything in this Western pleasure area for adults. And I just wrote the book I wanted to.
James Blatch: Aimed at women more than men, do you think?
Carly Kade: Yes, this is a equestrian fiction, so this definitely leans towards women.
James Blatch: But cowboy fiction would work for men obviously, but this is more competitive horse riding.
Carly Kade: That's right. Yeah. So it's more of the competitive world and what it's like to go to horse shows. And it can fit in that cowboy space, but it's not as sultry so to speak.
James Blatch: Okay.
Carly Kade: And the real point of it is, is all the authors that I know that are writing in equestrian fiction genre, and there's a lot of us, we get the horse parts right. Whereas, a lot of the mass produced things, don't exactly get the horse parts correct.
James Blatch: There you go. It's important to get the detail right. I mean, that is one of the pitfalls, actually, of writing in a niche area is you do have to be on top of your subject, otherwise your reviews are going to can step repetitive comments about bits you got wrong.
It's a bit of pressure on you. You've got to be a expert.
Carly Kade: Yes. I've been a horse lover for as long as I can remember. I've ridden horses since I was seven. Got my first horse when I was 10. I'm still a horse owner. I have two horses and actually my writing room, my office, looks directly out onto the horse pasture.
James Blatch: Keep an eye on them.
Carly Kade: So I am inspired while I sit here, yes.
James Blatch: Good. And I think you're right. Your observation about that gap in the market. I can remember certainly growing up in the late 70s and 80s, these little paperback books that the boys would buy that tended to be like Biggles or Boys' Own Adventures. And the girls very often was a horse book.
But I don't remember it translating into adult. One of the things the indie world has done is it started to feed those areas, whether it's fantasy or sub-genres of romance that didn't exist before indie. It's been one of the great things we've been able to do.
Okay. So you wrote the poem. You wrote the ending, all you were missing was the middle 80,000 words of this novel. But then you decided, obviously, that you were going to write a novel.
How did you set about doing that? What experience did you have at that point in novel writing?
Carly Kade: Oh, well, out of the gate, it was challenging. It's the first time taking on such a monumental task of writing a book. So if you think of the whole thing, it's a little overwhelming. So the first book did take me a very long time to write, because I think, like a lot of other authors it's like, who am I to write a book? I kept stopping and starting, and am I good enough to do this? And so I would fiddle with it. And then I'd put it away for a really long time.
Finally, I pull it out of the drawer and I hand it to my husband. And I asked him, "Will you just read this? And let me know if this has any merit, if this is something I should continue with." Now something to know about my husband. The only book series he's ever read is the Hunger Games.
James Blatch: Right.
Carly Kade: On our honeymoon.
James Blatch: Oh, right.
Carly Kade: So, he's not an avid reader. So as I sat there watching him read it, he was having reactions. He was smiling. He was laughing, he was connecting to it. And he put it down in his lap. He said, "Carly, this is really good. You should definitely do this."
So that was the moment that shifted things from me. Sharing it with a trusted person, getting that feedback. So then I sat down and I really committed to writing this book. And that really changed my whole life, writing this book.
James Blatch: Yeah. So, was that a complete first draft, your husband read? What worked? And what was needed after that?
Carly Kade: Well, it was not a first draft. It was the first five chapters.
James Blatch: Oh, literally. Okay. Right. Yeah.
Carly Kade: So, then I took it and I developed my writing style. Somebody asked me a really interesting question. Do I find writing exhilarating or exhausting? And the answer to that is it's a little bit of both. It's exhausting when I'm thinking about the overwhelm of writing a book. It's exhausting when I don't get my words written on the page.
But it's exhilarating after I have actually sat down and done the work. So rather than feeling exhausted, I want to feel exhilarated. So I created a routine where I actually, I sit down first thing, fresh. Work on my books and then move on with the rest of my day, the to-do's. And even when I don't want to, it's being committed to getting that creativity on the page and moving this other journey forward.
James Blatch: That's really good. Funny enough, I had a conversation with a neighbour today, who'd just come back off a run. And I run a little bit and we were both saying how much we hate running. I don't know why we do it, except I do know why we do it. Because after we've done it, we feel good.
Carly Kade: That's right.
James Blatch: And we enjoy the fact that we've done it, but we hate the process. And I think that you've just described that with writing. Is it is quite difficult, and I'm writing my second book at the moment, to sit down. And didn't do my words today.
First day for actually quite a while I haven't done my words today. I'm feeling wretched about it and thinking I've got to do 2,000 tomorrow. But I absolutely love that feeling of getting towards the end of a writing session, of having created something that didn't exist before you started that session. You've created this character's move and spoken and done things and it didn't exist in the universe before you wrote it down.
We've just got to get into the routine of getting to that point every day. But yes, that's a really good description of that. Okay. So you knuckled down. You understood what writing involved. You've got your draft done.
And then at this point, what year was this? And did you have an idea of trad and indie at this point? Or did you not know?
Carly Kade: Well, so this is really interesting. My corporate career actually prepared me for the next steps in what I was going to do with my book. I previously had worked as an artist development representative in the music industry. I worked for Sony Music and Universal Music. So I understood the Indie musician world. I understood how important it is to retain copyright intellectual property. Obviously intellectual property. I understood what it could look like to sign a contract and lose a lot of power.
So immediately I started educating myself. I think educating yourself in the author journey before you do anything is the most important thing any author can do. So I started listening to your show. I started doing my research. I started reading books. I started talking to people and I decided it was my decision to independently publish because I wanted to have a say, and I knew that I had the foundation from my corporate career from working in public relations and marketing to develop my platform, develop my brand, develop my space and I wanted to control my covers. It's very important when you're writing equestrian fiction to have a horse on your cover.
James Blatch: Yes, it sounds like an obvious thing, but I bet some people miss that.
Carly Kade: Yes.
James Blatch: Did you understand then at that point that there was the option of trad and indie, but because of your business background, you wanted the control, you didn't even consider trad?
Carly Kade: I did. That's right. I knew from educating myself that I wanted to do the independent route right out of the gate.
James Blatch: Okay. And how did you go about publishing your... Sorry, did you have a launch strategy?
Did you publish your first book by itself? Did you have book two ready to go? What was the strategy there?
Carly Kade: It's interesting with firsts. This was my first book. So I just wanted to get it out there in the space. So obviously I did the right things. I worked with a graphic designer for my cover design. I had the book edited, copy edited, beta readers. I did all of that before I went out of the gate. And the strategy behind it was I understand the equestrian niche and the community and the market. So I started building my author presence before I had a book to launch. And I started working with influencers and talking to equestrian influencers and book bloggers, people who could review my books. I got early readers to leave reviews.
I started the momentum before I actually published. And then with the rest of the series, I generally can write a book in about a year. After getting the first one done, it doesn't feel quite as monumental. So a year later Cowboy Away came out, the sequel, and then a year later Show Pen Promise the third instalment was released.
James Blatch: Okay. So you've had three so far. And are they a series, strict serial? The difference always is subtle, but one needs to be read after the other. The others are standalone, but set in the same universe. How do these books work?
Carly Kade: Generally, I think the reader will have the best experience if they start with the first one and read through the series, but they can be read standalone. They pick up where one left off and leads you on the rest of the way of the adventure so you can get more connected to the characters and learn more of their stories.
James Blatch: How did it go? How did the launch go?
Carly Kade: Oh, it went wonderfully. I hit some bestseller lists on Amazon. I think that we all look forward to that. I had some wonderful reviews. I have readers who are looking for the next books, but I think along the way, what has been such a bright spot in my author career is meeting the other equestrian authors in my community who are writing books for horse lovers. Now you don't have to love horses to read these books. There's stories where the horse characters are as important to moving the story forward as the human characters are. So there's that element of the animal connection, how the animals change lives, how they move the stories forward. But you don't have to be a horse lover to enjoy these stories.
I've built some beautiful relationships with other independent equine authors. And we're all doing things and collaborating and lifting each other up and celebrating that we're actually creating a genre. There are a lot of nonfiction horse books out there, and there are traditional publishers who do publish those, like horse training or horse care, that sort of thing. But this equestrian fiction movement is really moving equestrian fiction to the forefront.
James Blatch: We'll talk about the community in a moment. I'm just going to ask a slight side question because you mentioned the horse as being a character that can be integral to the plot in terms of moving things on. And I've noticed there's a bit of a movement here because there's also detectives with animals, detectives with dogs and so on. And the dog is a character in the book. We had an author on the other day, but I didn't ask him this.
I will ask you about anthropomorphizing the animal, the animal thinking and being cognitive in a way that's not realistic for how horses are. Or do you try to maintain that the animal's characteristics are really interpreted by the human, which is probably what happens in real life? Is there a line there, otherwise it could become slightly, almost 1950s Disney-esque with the horse and dog together?
Carly Kade: I know there are authors who write from the horse's perspective. Black Beauty is a great example of that. In my books, the horses are described and their actions are determined by how the human use them. So it's a more realistic type story and setting where the animals are concerned.
James Blatch: It's more Mr. Ed. We didn't really have him in the UK, but I've seen him creeping into American culture. Okay. All right. So this community, suddenly you thought you were working alone. This is a great idea. I'm going to write this equestrian niche. You started to work out that there are other people doing very similar things.
How do you end up speaking to each other? How do you find that community?
Carly Kade: It's really interesting because the author's writing horse books in my experience, they're mostly all equestrians. So there's the shared bond of our love for horses. And it's a niche community and there are so many horse lovers, but we all sort of gallop around in the same circles. So we end up bumping into each other.
I'm a member of something called the American Horse Publications. Now this is a group, an organisation, for people who write about horses. So there's networking opportunities there. There's groups on Facebook where horse lovers or books for horse lovers. There's groups where people are interacting and recommending horse books to each other.
And we start establishing relationships that way virtually really first and liking each other's work, sharing about each other's books, having read somebody else's books. I am friends now with authors who I read before I even considered writing a book. So we're a tight community. We support each other and really great collaborations come out of that. So we find each other because we're horse lovers.
James Blatch: And do you meet up in IRL, as they say, in real life with horses? Have you competed alongside any of your friends there?
Carly Kade: I've moved around. I've been in Michigan, New York and now Arizona. So I've moved around a bit, but I know that there's authors and bloggers who get together and go for trail rides. We meet up at conferences like I had just mentioned, but yes, there's a lot of us that get together and have a social life with our horses outside of being authors of horse books.
James Blatch: Okay. So let's talk about this as a niche, which it is in the same way that military cold war aviation thrillers are a niche. I found the early bits of marketing I've done have been helped by the fact it's a niche.
Carly Kade: It is.
James Blatch: Because it's easy to define your audience, easier than somebody who's writing a broad romance and doesn't quite know where to start.
Are you finding that that has been a helpful part of your marketing is the fact that you have a fairly well defined audience?
Carly Kade: Yes. I think writing to niche helped it extraordinarily well, because I know as a horse lover, I will pick up anything with a horse on the cover. I will look at anything with a horse on it and all of us are the same. We will do the same thing. And being embedded in the equestrian community, I know what a horse lover is looking for. I know where they go. I know how to work with them.
And it actually creates all sorts of amazing marketing opportunities too, because I know where the horse shows are. I can go to horse shows and they give away goodies when people win prizes. So I can sign a couple of books and put them in with the horse show pot and in breeders who obviously are my core readers will get copies of the book. So it's a great way to spread the word. So it's really great to market to niche because I know where those people are, they're me.
James Blatch: Yes. That's helpful, isn't it, when you know the avatar you're selling to because it's you.
Carly Kade: That's right.
James Blatch: Yeah. Okay. So you've done your three books in a series at the moment. Plans for more?
Carly Kade: Absolutely. I'm working on the fourth book right now in The Reins series. And while those characters are still talking to me and they're still guiding the direction of the book, I will continue on with that. But I am working on, as we were talking about community and collaboration and, like I said before, there aren't a lot of horse books for adults. So I've been looking at interesting ways, and this is another marketing strategy to work with other authors and get the word out to horse lovers, that there are books for adults, and they're not that far out.
So we've done something really unique. We've created a first-of-its-kind multi-genre, multidiscipline horse book box sets for adults. It's called Horses, Hearts & Havoc. Eight other authors and I have put our books into this and it's mystery, romance and suspense. And it covers different disciplines of writing. There's jumping, there's Western, there's gated horses and they're all for adults, which is an unusual find. And it's been a real bright spot. And they're all first in a series.
All of our books are a series. So this is an opportunity for readers to get all eight full length equestrian novels in this box set. And then there's plenty of reading for them when they're finished, they can continue on with the series that they enjoyed.
James Blatch: So, that is interesting. Different genres with the common theme being the equestrian theme.
Carly Kade: That's right. Because what I found is I'm speaking so much about horse lovers, but anybody could really enjoy these books. But what we've discovered in our niche is that readers jump around. They are not specific to romance and they're not specific to mystery or suspense. They enjoy all of those different genres with the equestrian theme.
James Blatch: Set in a horse context, yeah. Really interesting. Just on the last part about your books, I'm going to talk a bit about writing in a moment, but your marketing efforts in terms of how you've driven sales beyond the meeting up and the sort of collaboration stuff you've done:
Are you running paid ads?
Carly Kade: I do run paid ads actually. And your courses are fantastic.
James Blatch: Thank you.
Carly Kade: And I run them in Amazon. I've tried them on Facebook. And if it's done right, and you educate yourself, it can be a very good way to reach readers. I also like to look at how earned media can help support the marketing of my books as well through equestrian publications and being on podcasts. So I've tried a little bit of everything on this journey.
James Blatch: Now I know something that you have developed is a writing style and you teach a little bit about this. Do you want to talk about that? Is this word count targets and so on?
Carly Kade: It is and it's also mindset. So, like I was saying earlier, are they exciting? Are they exhilarating? We want to get to that place where you feel accomplished at the end of the day, like you're moving forward. As I talk to a lot of authors, they say the hardest part is finding the time and writing more often. And I find that the hardest part is always just before you start, sitting down in the chair, you can think of a thousand different reasons why something else on your to-do list is more important, when your writing is really the most important thing that you want to be focusing on. But somehow we all tend to avoid it, right?
James Blatch: Suddenly, the cleaning needs doing or the cobwebs or these little tasks. And of course, the computer age, there's a billion things, the accounts, and so on. Yeah, you're talking to me now.
Carly Kade: That's right. So, I like to teach people to create a routine, a way to sit down and get out of that mindset. Because when you're thinking about writing, there's two different parts of your brain. There's the one side of your brain that tells you, "I can't do this. I'm not good enough," but you really want to get into that front part of the brain where you're focused on what you're doing.
So, the most important thing I think is creating a writing schedule and sticking to it. Your writing time might be two in the morning, that might work for you. For me, it's first thing in the morning. I like to get the writing done before I start my day because if I open my inbox and I look at one email, I'm off, down a rabbit hole.
And a lot of times I never get back to my writing. And no one likes how that feels, right? And then, creating a writing ritual. I don't know if you have any writing rituals, but I like to do special things for myself to get myself in that mindset, like tricking my brain, this is my writing time. The really nice cup of coffee. I light a scented candle at my desk. I use some citrus smelling essential oils because that gets you inspired and wakes you up, before I sit down. So, I always do my writing ritual before I sit down.
James Blatch: Oh, that's interesting. I don't do the candles or scented oils, but I do do the coffee.
Carly Kade: The coffee.
James Blatch: Every time. And I think it's partly the ritual. It's the segue between all the distractions. When I decide I'm going to go and make coffee, when I come back in I'm writing. And I need that, I think just to get back in, to come back in, so everything else is gone and I'm writing.
Carly Kade: That's right. And that's the most important thing, you mentioned distractions, it's like you need to have your space to write. And it's hard, I know, to turn off the cell phone. I turn off the internet when I'm writing, I shut down my cell phone. I completely eliminate distractions because multitasking, when you're multitasking, you get off track and you never circle back. So, I give myself at least one hour uninterrupted, no Googling, nothing, to get the words on the page. And that's really all you need to move yourself forward.
James Blatch: What do you do? You must have this occasionally where you suddenly need the answer to something and you want to go into Google and I do do this, but I actually, I think I'm fairly good in those circumstances. I'll look up the answer, but because I'm writing at that point, it's not an issue. You go straight back to it and you carry on. I guess, some people might fall over at that point.
Carly Kade: I need to look something up, I will look it up. Or, if you know that you're going to go down a rabbit hole or check social media or get into your email, make a note of it inside of your book, research this more, and then stick with your writing. Because a lot of people ... I've done a lot of reading in order to avoid doing that, but a lot of people can't, they really like their social media. So, if you're one of those people, make a note, go back to research it and keep moving forward while you're writing your book.
James Blatch: Yeah. So, you write in the morning, first thing.
Carly Kade: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
James Blatch: Okay. I mean, after breakfast even, or do you just literally ... Are you out of bed and before anything else starts happening, you start writing?
Carly Kade: First thing I do is, of course my horses are on property, so I feed my horses.
James Blatch: Oh, of course, the horses. The horses get breakfast.
Carly Kade: The horses always come first, but yeah. So, I feed the horses and then I come in, I pour my coffee, I light my candle. I sit down in my office, I shut the door and that's the very first thing I do.
And another thing that I do that has been extraordinarily helpful is because when you think of the whole book, it's super overwhelm, right? When you think about, I have to write 80,000 words. So, what I do is I commit to, I'm going to get through a chapter today. And I write in short bursts and then I get up and I stretch, or I refill my coffee. I write in short bursts and that keeps me engaged with the story but it also makes me realise I don't have this uphill climb of writing for four hours straight, right?
Because I believe in touching your story every day, if you touch your story every day, you get that writing done, the story stays fresh. And then, as I'm doing other things throughout my day, ideas bubble up, ooh, I can expand here or ooh, I can expand there. As long as I touch it every day and I get that hour in, and I try to get 1,000 to 1,500 words. And every time I sit down, that little step, little step, little step adds up, but it's when you write and then you take this long break and then you come back to your book. It's so hard to get back into it because you have to read what you wrote before. And then, you start working on that and you start going backwards, you're not moving forward.
James Blatch: Yeah. And do you use any of the Pomodoro thing or the ... Within some ... Getting my words out here. It's late in the UK. Using the Scrivener Targets.
I use the Scrivener Targets, but do you use any devices like that?
Carly Kade: I'm a big fan of the Pomodoro Technique. And then, I also keep a journal. I still like to write things by hand. So, I'll keep a journal next to me while I'm writing. So, I'll look at the day before, how long did I write? I'll write when I started, when I ended. Then I'll write how many words I got the day before, and then I'll write the page I'm on. So, I know exactly where I'm going to pick up the next day and I don't have to go back through the manuscript, reread things that I did, because again, that's going backwards, not forward.
I pick up right where I left off. And then, at the end I write it down and I celebrate, you have to reward yourself for getting your work done. Not only does it feel good, but you're also moving an important project forward. Something that your creative soul wants you to breathe life into. So you have to celebrate that. So after that, take a walk, do something you want to do. And then, get into the rest of your day, tackle that to-do list, but celebrate that you got your writing done for the day.
James Blatch: Absolutely. And I think you were going to put something together for us, Carly?
Carly Kade: I do. I have the Eight Secrets: The Guide to Writing Faster and More Often for Authors. And it actually expands on some of the things I touched in here today, but there's more. So, it goes into far more detail about how you can apply these things to your own life.
James Blatch: Brilliant. Well, Carly, I think, honestly I said at the beginning that I think what you talked about with horses goes with almost any interest area that people have, that they're writing in. I think most people write about a particular area they're interested in, and having that in your mind, being your own reader is such a huge advantage I think, when it comes to marketing. Being the person you're marketing to, you've got all the insight, you don't need a focus group. You are the focus group.
Carly Kade: This is taking write what you know and market to who you know, and your ideal reader, to the next level.
James Blatch: Yes. It really is. So, that's great. And thank you very much, indeed, for the writing tips. Spoke 100% to me, which is great. I'm feeling even worse I didn't get my 1,000 words done today, but tomorrow I'm going to have to do 2,000 somehow.
Carly Kade: Yeah. And you can do it. There's nothing worse than that feeling of having not touched your work on a day, but you'll do it. You're doing it.
James Blatch: I'm a spreadsheet man, so that really helps me when there's a blank cell on the spreadsheet where I haven't got any words done in a day and I have my colour coded conditioning formatting, so it goes yellow, red or green. That's how I'm childish like that, that motivates me. That's enough for me to know. That keeps me going. So, everyone finds their own way.
Brilliant. Carly, thank you so much, indeed for joining us. I hope your horses are in good health today. You're looking over the camera towards them, making sure they're okay. And I wish you all the success to come in the future.
Carly Kade: Thank you so much. It was such an honour to be on the show. I appreciate the opportunity.
James Blatch: There you go. I really enjoyed that fun interview. A friend of mine is an equine vet, I think you've met actually, Stewart, and I spend a bit of time knocking around with him, because he goes to interesting places. He goes to Burghley Horse Trials and they have much smaller events that no one's heard of in the middle of nowhere with no one watching, but it's still the British GB team doing dressage and show jumping and cross country. And I go and help him out on those days and really enjoy being around that world. And you can see why it lends itself, not just to romance, but I'd say you could definitely ... I think, probably, I haven't read Dick Francis. It was my parents' era rather than me but I imagine, I think he did some sort of mysteries and thrillers and crime as well as ... I think it's probably his thing, wasn't it? I can't really remember. Do you read Dick Francis? Have you read?
Mark Dawson: No, not really my thing, but yeah, I think he was quite versatile.
James Blatch: Yes.
Mark Dawson: And Carly, you certainly would have sold at least one book out of result of this interview, because although ... Well, we're recording this obviously before it goes out, but I mentioned to Lucy that we had a equine writer and she became very excited. So, I think there's a good chance she'll be downloading a few of Carly's books.
James Blatch: There you go. And also, I gave Barbara Hinske's book Guiding Emily to my wife, which she enjoyed, which is about a guide dog and we just brought up a guide dog. And so yeah, it's the same sort of thing.
And what's interesting listening to Carly is, as I mentioned going into the interview, you suddenly find this type of loyalty that you don't get when you're writing a more broad genre fiction, because people want to know a bit about you, what you do, and building up that fan base can be a really good thing. So, don't be scared of the niches because that's where there's the-
Mark Dawson: Here we go. Here we go.
James Blatch: You've got to finish it.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. Well, it's the riches are in the niches.
James Blatch: Niches.
Mark Dawson: The riches are in the niches.
James Blatch: We say niches. We say niches, you say tomato. Okay, good. Well, I really enjoyed that. Thank you very much indeed, Carly, for coming on.
We have got some good interviews lined up, doing lots at the moment and it's really good fun. That's it though from us this week. Just a reminder, you can support the show at patreon.com/selfpublishingshow. All that remains for me to say, however, for this episode is it's goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
Mark Dawson: Goodbye.
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